Great Gully Falls a Photographic View

It was an unusually warm December afternoon that Caden and I decided to travel to Great Gully Falls to take some photos and then check out a possible sunset shot over Cayuga Lake later in the afternoon.

Actually, Caden didn’t have a say in the matter, but he’s always up for a ride and creek play.

I had never been to Great Gully, but I had seen it on a map when I worked on an environmental remediation site in nearby Union Springs (see map below for the fall’s location).

So I was excited about the trip. The temperatures were in the upper 40s, very warm for December, and there was light cloud cover allowing for enough light in the gully to take good photographs.

Trail Conditions at Great Gully Falls

There might be some marked trails at Great Gully Falls but we followed the large herd path to the creek which I guess is named Great Gully Cove.

You don’t have to go very far before you see the first of several waterfalls in the gully.

Waterfall at Great Gully Falls

Because the temperatures were quite warm and there was no ice in the creek I decided to walk and wade up the creek instead of looking for paths. The creek bed is a mixture of limestone bedrock with some shale cut banks and of course areas covered in gravels.

I had no problem walking up the creek and the water only got to about shin-deep.

Be aware, however, that Great Guly Cove drains a large basin with steep banks. My guess is the creek can rise quickly and carry a large volume of water so wading would not be possible at times with heavy rains. I will be revisiting this area and I’ll post the conditions I encounter.

Geology of Great Gully Falls

The Great Gully cuts down through the shales and thin limestones of the Hamilton Group. Specifically the Skaneateles and Marcellus Shales. The limestone beds that make up the lips of the falls and the bedrock creek bed are the Onondaga Limestones.

Great Gully Falls limestone beds of the Onondaga Limestone

Taking Photos of the Falls & Ledges

There is quite a bit here to photograph. I will be back during the different seasons to check it out and to also focus on other compositions in the woods, ravine sides, and creek beds.

Log beached on the limestone ledges at Great Gully Falls

However, on this visit, I only took photographs of the numerous waterfalls, one of some white fungus (didn’t like it), and of Caden.

Caden: A Late Autumn Day in the Creek for a Spring Spaniel

Caden, as always, had a great time in the creek. Today was no exception. He even learned a few things and hopefully, the lessons stick with him.

The first lesson, was him crossing a larger and deeper creek by himself. He has no problems zooming up and down shallow creeks, but today he had to learn he can go across water over his belly on his own. Hesitant at first, but eventually he didn’t think twice about it.

Of course, that is where his problems started. He has never been fond of swimming. He has gone over his head a few times but quickly doggie paddles back to shore. The water in the creek is crystal clear and he found out that running blindly down a creek one will eventually come across a deep pool of water that looks shallow.

You guessed it, full speed into a four-foot deep pool. He was surprised but didn’t panic and paddled (poorly I would say) to shallower water. I laughed at him and he got me back by shaking himself dry next to me.

One of Caden’s New Habits

Caden has come to find out that taking photos isn’t always a quick click-and-go. After a few minutes of sniffing & hunting around he takes up position looking behind like he is guarding my six. Not only here, but this appears to be what he is going to do from now on.

Below is a photo I took of a rock ledge and a small riffle of water. I used Luminar Neo to focus stack the three images but it did a poor job as you can see if you zoom in. It isn’t much of a photo so I won’t bother to manually focus stack it. But because of where Caden decided to sit guarding us I decided to include the photo here.

great gully falls

In the next image, you will see Caden facing behind us sitting on the large shelf of rock on the left of the image.

Caden on the photoshoot at great gully falls

You can see that is after his unplanned swim. Be he is intensely watching our backside to make sure nothing sneaks up on us. Not sure what he is worried about, but he sat there the whole time I was shooting this riffle of water.

That wasn’t his only photo today.

He got into this shot, and I can’t believe how sharp the image is of him with the water blurred like it is. I had to include a screenshot of the raw file to show you I didn’t photoshop him into the image.

You can see we got a couple of minutes of direct low afternoon light on the waterfalls. I like the light in the image.

Short Hike But You Will Need Boots

The hike up Great Gully Falls isn’t very long. But as mentioned there isn’t much of a trail along the edge and the thick maple leaf litter was thick and slippery on top of the clay soil along the steep (very steep) banks in some areas.

Here is where Caden had his second mishap of the day. He was way up on the steep gorge hillside and I called for him to stay closer. He came full speed down the tree-filled slope to an old stream-cut bank about 5 feet high.

When he went to slow down at the edge, the steepness of the bank, his speed and momentum, and the slippery leaves caused him to slide off the cliff even though he was leaving back with all four feet in full break mode and he had to leap at the last second before sliding off.

His landing wasn’t a thing of beauty or grace. It was more like a faceplant. He doesn’t let much slow him down, but I could tell he was a bit shaken up as he healed at my side for a ways before he was off again scouting for squirrels.

That was twice I wish the video camera was running. But truthfully I was worried about his speed down the slope to begin with and probably wouldn’t have filmed him. I also wasn’t going to stand in front of a 50-pound fast-moving dog to stop him either.

Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.

More Photos of the Waterfalls in Great Gully

Upper Falls at Great Gully

The photo above is of the upper falls. I would say the top is about eight to nine feet above the water in the pool. I do have a hard time judging the height, but I think most people over-report the height. Maybe there isn’t another falls above this one. I didn’t go any further upstream as I wanted to get to the lake for sunset. But I think this is the biggest in the gully.

You can get under the upper falls. Here are two images from the north side of the falls.

Which of the two photos below do you like the best?

The portrait makes the falls look taller, but the horizontal image gives more depth and I like the rock face and visual aspect of the space behind the water.

great gully upper falls
great gully upper falls

My Favorite Photo of the Day

This is my favorite photo of the day. It is of the Upper Falls looking through a rooted clump of Sycamore trees (my favorite species of tree too!).

favorite photo of the upper falls in great gully falls

Before & After

Here is a before and after slider of the image. The raw photo is on the left and finished on the right.

upper great gully waterfalls raw image Great Gully Upper Waterfalls after image

If you would like to know how I process this and the other raw images I take, please let me know and I’ll put up some videos of how I process different images.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of Great Gully Falls. The key takeaway is to be safe. The hills are steep, both the creek bottom and side slopes are slippery, and the creek may be flashy during heavy rains. Bring boots or prepare to wade if you want to get up to the upper falls.

I will return here in each of the seasons and include more photographs and insights when I do.

Above all, if you see trash please remove it if possible so we can keep these wonderful places beautiful and open for all to enjoy.

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